Though it seems crazy to bake in this weather, I led service at church this morning focused on baking bread mindfully. Of the small group who were there (because UUs don't usually gather in large numbers in the summer months), the children in the congregation had the most fun, one girl saying that church was finally fun! Of course, children bake mindfully all by themselves, wondering at the smell, texture, sight, and taste of all the ingredients, engaging in the processes with passion as they stir and knead and shape. When kids cook, they cook--they don't talk on the phone or wonder about something that happened earlier in the day; they are fully engaged. And so, baking with the kids and the adults at service today, despite the hot weather, made for a wonderful and tasty morning.
Mindful Baking Service
Gathering: Volunteers help shape existing dough into loaves, covering them and setting them aside (hang signs asking participants to wash hands first).
Chalice Lighting: "We who gather here come for sustenance--we come to break bread together. we come bearing the ingredients of and for creation--we bring ourselves. With the blending of hearts and minds, we join in the work of loving hands which learn to knead the dough. And in the warmth of fellowship will rise the staff of life." --Bread-making Rite, Part One
Making bread, one cultivates generosity.Making bread, one cultivates patience.Making bread, one cultivates mindfulness.Making bread, one cultivates concentration.Making bread, one cultivates effort.Making bread, one cultivates wisdom.
--adapted from The Lotusland
Opening Words: "The Kitchen"--Gunilla Norris, Becoming Bread
Familiar and strange,the kitchen is a holy place--alive with possibility.A place for the elements.Water in the tap,fire in the stove,earth in the food,air--between, around, above, and below.Behind the cupboard doorsare the pots and the pans,the bowls and the dishes,the measuring cupsand the measuring spoons--holy thingsthat lie ready for use,much like our dreamsthat lie waitingbehind our eyelids.The kitchen is alchemical,a place where we cook--actuallyand spiritually. We come to itfor nourishment and ease.We come to it as to a center--the heart of the house,the heart of the dwelling.In the kitchen we are one,linked by hunger--actual hunger and spiritual hunger.We go to the kitchen to benourished and revealed.It is a holy place.
Opening Music "All I Really Need" by Raffi
Candles of Community
Inspired by a pledge to make all of my family's bread for 40 days, a pledge that I made right here in this pulpit on April 18, I have spent the last four months learning how to bake. With recipes from friends, a lesson from another friend, and several cookbooks, I embarked on a path which I am still following. I bake bread two or three times a week, even now with the pledge officially over. And each loaf is another learning loaf, as I understand more about yeast and flour, kneading resting, which recipes are good for sandwiches and which for toast, which recipes the kids will eat and which ones Mama and I prefer. More than all of that, I understand more about myself, more about life. I am becoming mindful about and through my bread baking.
But what does that mean? Famed cook and cookbook author as well as Zen Priest Edward Espe Brown writes and talks often about mindfulness in cooking, starting with Suzuki Roshi's advice: “See with your eyes, smell with your nose, taste with your tongue.” For me, it means making my bread instead of buying it. It means feeling the flour, sniffing the sourdough starter, seeing the dough spring back when I press it. I smell the bread baking, I see the crust browning, I feel the warmth of the cooling loaf, and finally I taste the bread. It also means I try not to just follow a recipe blindly but try to understand rising and proofing, gluten and yeast. So that I am really making the bread. I make small changes to express myself, using honey for maple syrup, whole wheat flour for half of the white, oats sprinkled on top to indicate oatmeal bread. And when the bread comes out well, it's good; and when the bread comes out unexpectedly, it's still good because I learn.
Zen Priest and author Karen Maezen Miller writes in Hand Wash Cold about life being a kitchen,
"Every day, I found my daughter's scorched breakfast left on the table, and my husband's crusty oatmeal bowl on the counter. I found shelves of food that no one but me would cook, cabinets of dishes no one but me would wash and put away. I found a near-empty milk jug, overripe bananas, and moldy bread. I found out the same way you did that a self-cleaning oven absolutely never cleans itself. In all this mess, I found the ingredients for the next stage in the spiritual journey: the opportunity to move beyond myself and into compassionate care of everything and everyone that appeared before me morning, noon, and night. I found myself in the very heart of life, an ordinary life, the best spot to give and receive pure love."
the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite - toujours bon appétit!"
Offertory--"Earth, Air, Fire, Water" by Libana
Closing Words: "Working in the Kitchen"--Edward Espe Brown, Tassajara Bread Book
What is it, closer than close?Not impervious or distant, notstiff or unresponsive. A get-down-in-the-mud mind, a root-around-in-the-weeds mind: Food comesalive with your presence, reachingout, laboring, taking the timefor flour, salt, water, yeastto come together, for a bowlthat breaks, the dirty dishes,a leaky faucet, always moreto cooking than meets the eye!Each thing asking to be seen, heard,known, loved, a companion in the dark."Take care of the food," it is said,"as thought it was your own eyesight,"not saying, oh that's all right, wehave plenty, we can throw that away.Table, teapot, measuring cups, spoons:the body within the body, the placewhere everything connects.Ripe, succulent fruit, leaves, stems,roots, seeds: the innermost mindawakening, fully manifesting. Whatare you up to, after all? What isa way of life that is satisfying,fulfilling, sustaining and sustainable?Cups, glasses, sponges, onebody with a hundred faces,a sticky honey jar, the half-empty cup of coffee, each askingto fulfill, each offering the touchof the beloved.Enter, plunge into the heartof the matter: an unknown destination,an unknown adventure unfoldingwith you wits about you and yournot-so-wits. Things emerging in life,Life emerging in things, no separation.Concentrating on food, concentrating onmyself, with heart opening, hands offeringmay everything be deliciously fullof warmth and kindness.Coming form the earth, coming from the air,a cool breeze, a spark, a flame, go ahead:Cook, offer yourself, hold nothing back.Cooking is not like you expected, not likeyou anticipated. What is happening is unheardof, never before experienced. You cook. No mistakes.You might do it differently next time, butyou did it this way this time. Thingsare as they are, even if you say too much thistoo little that. And if you want things to staythe same, remind yourself they have no unchanging nature."Wherever you go, remember, there you are." O.K.?Go ahead. Keep moving. Watch your step.
Closing Music "Simple Gifts"
Blessing on the Bread in Fellowship:
- This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard work.
- May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.
- May we transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
- May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our planet, and reverse the process of global warming.
- We accept this food so that we may nurture our sisterhood and brotherhood, strengthen our sangha [community] and nourish our ideal of serving all beings.